The VariQuest Visual and Kinesthetic Learning Tools Blog contains resources on classroom ideas, lesson plans, industry news, events, and offers throughout education.
I remember when I started teaching, my students were acquiring more "life experiences" than I was. They were traveling abroad, going to the beach, hiking mountains...anything and everything. It made for great discussions in class and helped them accumulate a deep vault of background knowledge. However, in the last generational shift, much of the time spent on experiences has moved to scheduled sports or programmed activities. Both are fine, but there may be a gap widening among our students that we need to help fill in our classrooms. The best part about filling this gap with your students involves watching their awe and wonder as they learn things about the world beyond their walls and feeling proud that it was thanks to you. If you would like to start working with students to bring global awareness into your classroom, I've got a few ideas to start you out...
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, has been celebrated for thousands of years. It is one of the most important holidays widely celebrated in many Asian countries and territories including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Thailand. Usually falling between January 21st and February 20th, this year's start of the Chinese New Year will occur on February 5th, and is the Year of the Pig. The celebration lasts for about 15 days. Gung Hay Fat Choy is a common Chinese New Year’s greeting in Chinese Cantonese, which means “wishing you great happiness and prosperity.” On Chinese New Year, the themes of happiness, wealth, longevity, luck and good fortune are celebrated. Some of the traditional celebrations include family gatherings, visiting friends and relatives (baai nin), exchanging “lucky money” contained in red envelopes (lai see), decorating homes with paper decorations and scrolls, lion dances, and fireworks. Chinese New Year is a special holiday to celebrate with your class while teaching them others’ cultures and comparing them to American traditions. I have put together a collection of fun, hands-on and Common Core-aligned lessons and activities, classroom decorations, and craft projects for you to explore and enjoy with your class, and I want to share them with you!
This helpful guide includes an explanation of the grant process, including a checklist (with samples!), and useful links and resources to find funding!
Data, data, data! Through the halls of our schools, that’s what teachers are talking about - and we're using it to drive instruction. The question is, are we using it correctly? The "big data movement" has had some negative side effects, involving testing phobia among students and incredible stress among staff - but if you know how to use the data correctly, both educators and students can find their way to a virtual paradise of growth. It doesn’t matter what your district or school uses for data purposes. Many schools across the country are using the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test, running records through Fountas and Pinnell, or maybe even basic common assessments. The first thing we all need to wrap our brains around is the difference between formative and summative assessments...
Once you have organized your rooms, set up your classroom libraries, laid out those pillows in comfy reading nooks, put out name tags, and written your schedule, there’s one more detail you'll want to make sure you pay careful attention to. It will make your year truly positive and build everlasting relationships. It’s parental involvement! The big question I hear a lot is - "How do I get them involved in the right way?" The right way is the key. I bring up mindset a lot, and it’s true that "personalized learning" and "mindset" are the new buzz words but in truth, you need to have a team mindset for this particular area of your classroom community. It's important to look at your students' parents as your team because in reality they are, and YOU are the coach. What do you want this relationship to look like? If your goal is to be in it together, try out these tips and see how they help build that unified-team mindset:
I’ve been teaching for many years and with those years come a vast knowledge of when I’m losing the crowd or when everyone is into their work. To be a master teacher you have to have your finger on the pulse of your classroom. The question is, “What does that look like?” As a younger teacher I always wanted my kids to be happy being at school, but as time passes you phase into a stronger leader and know everyone must pull their weight for student growth to happen. Finding the balance between fun and work is where I think engagement occurs. So…how do you keep them engaged? I’ve compiled a few ideas for you to try implementing in your classroom...
When did kids fall out of love with reading? I’ve been lucky enough to teach an upper grade level, and when you have that experience you see the evolution of children in their learning. But in the last ten years or so, I’ve noticed a decline in reading for fun - and that's important to note, and concerning. Students would read a passage or text I gave them, but as far as finding a book to disappear in for leisure, the hobby is almost nonexistent. “It’s a chore,” they say. When did this happen? I remember the days of having to force kids to put books down! Here's what I have observed are contributors to the decline in reading, and how to solve the issues. And this is by no means data or research-driven. I’m sharing my own personal observations, coupled with what I have learned from speaking with my students...
For many years, comprehension strategies centered on students making connections to their texts. These may have included: Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, and Text-to-World. However, this continued strategy seemed to only produce readers who wanted to talk about themselves. Very few times were they connecting with other texts or with world situations. Hence, a deeper understanding of the text became elusive. Having the experience of desperately pulling deeper understanding of a text from my students, I was introduced to the strategy of "close reading." Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey wrote a fantastic article in The Reading Teacher titled Close Reading in Elementary Schools, where they outline how to incorporate this "text dependent question" approach into your literacy time. The basics are:
As more and more schools expand their curriculum offerings to include Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs spanning the 16 Career Clusters, the need for resources to help these students has grown along with it. One of these clusters, obviously close to our hearts at VariQuest, is the Education & Training pathway - so along with supporting educators who facilitate this goal with students, we also want to support those students considering a career in the industry! So - do you have an Early Education Program with your secondary students? Or maybe you're a Pre-K or Kindergarten teacher looking for activities to help students learn about numbers and counting? We've got a free lesson plan for you, aligned with Common Core Math Standard K.CC.A.1-5: "Counting Strategies: Build a Fruit Basket!"
Lessons/Activities/Templates | Academic Subject: Mathematics | Featured Topics: Lessons and Activities | Featured Topics: Classroom Celebrations/Holidays | VariQuest Tools: Trifecta 800 3D Printer | 3D Printing | VariQuest Tools: Cold Laminator 2510 | Featured Topics: Common Core | Grade Level: Intermediate (3-6) | Grade Level: Secondary (7-12) | Common Core
"Class, what is the Order of Operations?" My energetic class of fifth graders shouted out loud, "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally!" What? Who is Aunt Sally? When students initially learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, they are taught to perform those skills using two numbers and one operation. As they progress to the next levels, they begin to see numerical expressions with more than one operation and word problems that involve multiple steps. Introduce your students to the Order of Operations - and help them memorize the "PEMDAS" or "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" acronym as early as third grade. Putting this memory into practice can be more of a challenge - so we've come up with some tips and a fun lesson plan activity for your students to drive the concept home!
Engaging students in a meaningful learning experience is the ideal goal of an educator. Providing every learner with a hands-on, eyes-on, ears-on, and minds-on activity amplifies the learning process and ensures student achievement. STEM, or Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math - is the most talked-about education methodology today - an opportunity for students to envelop themselves in learning that not only teaches them core subject competencies, but also connects those teachings to real-world, meaningful applications. You may have heard the word "makerspace" mentioned in conversations around how to offer an engaging, hands-on learning experience. But what exactly is, a makerspace?